Being stopped for drunk driving in Ohio, known as Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence (OVI), is one thing. Injuring or killing another person while driving drunk is something else entirely. Causing injury or death while driving drunk will probably result in a felony charge of aggravated vehicular homicide or aggravated vehicular assault.
Penalties if convicted of these crimes can range from one year to at least 10 years, depending on a variety of circumstances. Moreover, in addition to facing criminal charges, individuals may find themselves having to respond to a civil wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit.
According to the Century Council, a distilling injury trade group, there were 316 alcohol related fatalities reported in Ohio in 2011, with 45 of them involving underage drivers. This translates to a rate of 2.7 driving fatalities per each 100.000 population. To put this in perspective, Illinois had a rate of 2.2 alcohol-related driving fatalities, while Indiana had a rate of 3.2 per 100,000 population.
Statistics show that repeat offenders make up the majority of drunk drivers who cause fatalities. The 2011 statistics shows that 75 percent of drunk drivers in fatal accidents had had previous OVI convictions for driving with a .15 percent blood alcohol concentration, and 25 percent had a BAC between .08 and .14 percent.
These are sobering numbers, but the situation is actually getting better. In Ohio, the rate is going down. In the 2011 report, there are 34.7 fewer alcohol-related fatalities than there were in 2001. However, tragic drunk driving crashes continue to occur in Ohio and throughout the United States. Moreover, in Ohio the number of 2010 fatalities actually increased over the previous year, despite the downward trend overall.
Some recent Ohio criminal cases reveal the damage caused by drivers who choose to get behind the wheel drunk. A tow truck operator was killed by a drunk driver who had three times the legal BAC in his system. He will be sentenced later this month in a Franklin County court. A West Virginia man pleaded guilty in Washington County to two vehicular assault counts for injuring a little girl and her grandmother. His BAC was determined to be .354 percent at the time of the crash.
In June, a motorcyclist was hospitalized with serious injuries after being hit by a drunk driver who had been involved in a domestic dispute to which police had been called just minutes before the crash. The female driver failed a field sobriety test, but, according to the driver’s roommate, she should not have been on the road in the first place. According to a witness, “You could smell the alcohol.”
During the recent July 4th holiday, Ohio State Highway Patrol reported an increase in drunk driving stops and arrests, part of the ongoing effort to make drunk driving accidents a thing of the past. Keeping drivers who are under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances off the road has become a priority for laws enforcement, not just in Ohio, but throughout the United States.